We asked resident Entourage apologists Rafael Gaitan and Mark Stack to team up and discuss each week of the spiritual Entourage sequel Ballers. This time out, the Dolphin-obsessed duo play some beach bingo while tearing up over Ricky Jerret’s father issues and Charles Greene’s secret love of Her.
Raf: Another Sunday has gone by, which means that Spencer Strassmore, Ricky Jerret, Charles Greene and Joe Baldasfuck have found themselves thrown for another comedy loop. M-m-m-m-must be Ballers! I’m joined as always by my main mane, Mark. Mark, what did we think of “Everything is Everything?” Although every episode gets an extra star when Reggie is in it because he’s the Hanger-Onner we love to hate, this had to be my favorite episode. I would legit call it fun and funny!
Mark: Raf, I can not begin to overstate how much I liked this episode because it featured my second or third favorite stock character backstory courtesy of an A-MAZING Ricky Jerret monlogue. Fuck literally everything else that happened in this episode that wasn’t Ricky Jerret explaining how he is the Bizarro version of his shitty father. There was so much concentrated “fuck you, dad” in that one speech that hasn’t been since since Mr. Swollen Feet himself killed his dad on the road to Thebes. Damn.
Raf: I was gonna save that for after Chatting About Charles but hell yeah. I retroactively take back a good amount of my snipes at John David Washington- that speech about the number 81 was all killer, no filler- a highlight of the series and easily the best and most humanizing moment of Ricky’s career. Which of course is why it’s followed by his angel of a girlfriend leaving. Ballers is developing an edge which I quite like. But let’s backtrack- this week we found Spencer Strassmore on the corner of Know Your Role Boulevard and Jabroni Drive.
Mark: I actually found it kind of hard to get a read on Spencer this episode and I would normally take that as a sign of bad writing. But this time around it actually has a lot to do with Spencer revealing just how close he holds things to the chest. We get two moments where he really emotes: once when he yells at a kid for tossing a football at the back of his head and again when he expresses his vulnerability over the phone to the beautiful Arielle Kebbel (John Tucker Must Die, The Vampire Diaries) only to discover that the call dropped out. They’re very revealing moments because I absolutely didn’t expect anything like that to manifest so suddenly. Spencer plays like he’s all cool but he’s as high-strung as they come which adds a new level of intensity to his interactions with Jerk-Off 1 and Jerk-Off 2.
Raf: Dwayne Johnson can be hit or miss but yeah, that scene was solid. It would have been the realest moment of the show if it wasn’t for Ricky Motherfucking Jerret. It’s good to see the characters growing: when confronted by Reggie, Spencer manages to keep his cool and hey, he even finally goes for the MRI he so desperately needs. Though this was hardly the Rock’s episode. Aside from RMFJ, I really did like the budding friendship and negotiation between Joe and Maximo (the ever talented Clifton Collins Jr.). I’m tempted to make a Roger Ebert rule but about him- anything that he gets cast in will at least be watchable. I’m glad to see they’re closing in on some of these loops– I mean how long can you drag out some photos on a boat? Especially when RMFJ gets outed as a literal motherfucker?
Mark: That scene with Joe and Maximo at the racetrack was a lot of fun. Short and punchy with the main joke being how civil these dudes are being about the whole blackmail situation. Based on the ease of their interaction and just how much chemistry is there between Collins and Corddry, I wouldn’t be surprised to Maximo show up more in the series whether he was initially planned to or not.
Raf: I want to see those two team up in something, anything- they have a natural ease with one another or at least appear to- they’re both superior actors. But now Mark, it’s time for America’s favorite critical-thought-within-a-critical-thought: Chatting About Charles. I was not a fan of this week’s exploits. The writers are pushing the Charles character too hard in the direction the others are, but that’s the whole point of Charles- he’s NOT like them. He thinks he is, but he isn’t. Speaking of pronouns, there is a hilarious bit about Her that made the episode for me. I was literally laughing out loud, especially when factoring in the odds that it will be on the Home Box Office this month.
Mark: That bit about Charles getting baked with those dudes and watching Her with them was made all the better by the implication that it was quite possibly the only movie that they watch. I’ll be real with you: Her was maybe the best movie I saw in theaters last year. I came out of my screening with tear tracks on my cheeks, called a close friend, and just cried on the curb while we talked about the movie. That movie hit me like Ricky Jerret in a club. So I loved the inclusion of it and the very tenuous connection it makes to Charles and his inability to love his wife adequately in this writer-mandated moment of his life. Spike Jonze may have saved Charles Greene’s marriage.
Raf: Yes that implication was so good. I also enjoyed Her, though at the time I was full of heartache and anxiety, so you know. This isn’t an episode of Raffeel It All Around, though. It was a solid thoughtful cross-cut, and hey, she takes him back in her own special way- by washing that fool. Hopefully that sperm pool of RMFJ where he claimed he busted 1000 or more nuts was enough to impregnate Charles with some sense.
Mark: 1001 Nuts: The Ricky Literal Motherfucking Jerret Story.
Raf: Overall, the strongest showing yet for Ballers. We’re hurtling to the end though, Mark, and there has not been a Dan Marino reference or cameo. I would hate for this to adversely affect my opinion on a show I was starting to really look forward to.
Mark: Raf, you know this as well as I know this: Dan Marino is the great white whale of this series. We just know he’s gonna be on deck at some point but they’ve got to save him for maximum effect. Vincent Chase didn’t star in Martin Scorsese’s Gatsby in season one. Fuck, he didn’t even get to try on his Pablo Escobar prosthetics or jump into a scuba class with James Cameron. It’ll be coming and it’ll be glorious. But, please, the time has come for us to more adequately discuss the interview that RMFJ gave this week.
Raf: As previously mentioned, this was the most poignant and honest moment in the whole series. I’m glad that the director of the episode chose to not cut away when the train leaves the station- we have some cross between Ricky and Jay Glazer but when he ramps it up he runs it the fuck home. John David Washington turned my opinion of him around in a straight 35 seconds. I’m excited to see who they cast as #81, Ricky’s bum-ass father, though, once that interview comes out. In a perfect, non-murderous world it would be none other than Orenthal “Innocent as Fuck” James Simpson. But this isn’t a perfect world so it will probably be Steve Harris (though I do like him.)
Mark: When Ricky revealed that his #18 is a mirror of his father’s number, I had a moment where I started to question how old Terrell Owens was and whether or not he could believably play a father to a man John David Washington’s age. Aside from how fire that interview was, we actually get a pretty great moment where Ricky tries to fuck everything up by getting insecure. It takes a stern talk from Spencer in which he basically says, “I just used up a favor for this interview so don’t fuck it up, you Harry Potter-reading nerd.” For once, we actually get some insight into why Ricky seems to sabotage himself at every turn and it makes him feel more like a real person after serving as more of a realistically drawn cartoon for these past episodes.
Raf: Seriously. I think it’s safe to say that Ballers is still a terrible title but it has surpassed the glib “Entourage But About Sports” period. The writing is largely on point and you can tell these actors are all enjoying the show and their ever-expanding roles. I don’t know how it’s doing viewing-wise but this show is making me feel all the love the Miami Dolphins have taken from me every crushing, post-1972 season.
Mark: Hey, at least you had Ace Ventura: Pet Detective to console you during this disastrous period of Dolphins history.
Mark: I think this next season might be a little more hopeful for the Dolphins if only because they’ll be riding off this wave of goodwill that we’re sending their way thanks to Ballers.
Raf: The only thing consoling me is knowing that Dan Marino is out there somewhere, probably texting Don Shula to meet up and watch The French Connection. That might be the most me thing I’ve ever dreamed up. If you’re reading these recaps and you’re not watching Ballers, I am confident you are doing yourself and young Mr. Stack and I a disservice. While everyone debates whether this season of True Detective is good (yes, but not how you think) we have a show that isn’t being torn to shreds with thinkpieces to enjoy. Couldn’t we use a little more positivity and That One Girl Charles Met in our lives?
Mark: Yeah, fuck True Detective.
To read Mark and Raf’s thoughts on previous Ballers: